A Brief Introduction and Guide
by Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc.
Ayurveda is considered by many scholars to be the vata, pitta and kapha. These principles can be related to oldest healing science. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “The Science of Life.” Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and is often called the Energy is required to create movement so that fluids “Mother of All Healing.” It stems from the ancient Vedic and nutrients get to the cells, enabling the body to culture and was taught for many thousands of years in an function. Energy is also required to metabolize the oral tradition from accomplished masters to their nutrients in the cells, and is called for to lubricate and disciples. Some of this knowledge was set to print a few maintain the structure of the cell. Vata is the energy of thousand years ago, but much of it is inaccessible. The movement, pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism principles of many of the natural healing systems now and kapha, the energy of lubrication and structure. All familiar in the West have their roots in Ayurveda, people have the qualities of vata, pitta and kapha, but one including Homeopathy and Polarity Therapy. is usually primary, one secondary and the third is usually least prominent. The cause of disease in Ayurveda is The Strategy: Your Constitution and Its
viewed as a lack of proper cellular function due to an Inner Balance
excess or deficiency of vata, pitta or kapha. Disease can Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and also be caused by the presence of toxins. encourages the maintenance of health through close In Ayurveda, body, mind and consciousness work attention to balance in one’s life, right thinking, diet, together in maintaining balance. They are simply viewed lifestyle and the use of herbs. Knowledge of Ayurveda as different facets of one’s being. To learn how to balance enables one to understand how to create this balance of the body, mind and consciousness requires an body, mind and consciousness according to one’s own understanding of how vata, pitta and kapha work individual constitution and how to make lifestyle changes together. According to Ayurvedic philosophy the entire to bring about and maintain this balance. cosmos is an interplay of the energies of the five great Just as everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person elements—Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Vata, pitta has a particular pattern of energy—an individual and kapha are combinations and permutations of these combination of physical, mental and emotional five elements that manifest as patterns present in all characteristics—which comprises their own constitution. creation. In the physical body, vata is the subtle energy of This constitution is determined at conception by a number movement, pitta the energy of digestion and metabolism, of factors and remains the same throughout one’s life. and kapha the energy that forms the body’s structure. Many factors, both internal and external, act upon us Vata is the subtle energy associated with movement
to disturb this balance and are reflected as a change in composed of Space and Air. It governs breathing, one’s constitution from the balanced state. Examples of blinking, muscle and tissue movement, pulsation of the these emotional and physical stresses include one’s heart, and all movements in the cytoplasm and cell emotional state, diet and food choices, seasons and membranes. In balance, vata promotes creativity and weather, physical trauma, work and family relationships. flexibility. Out of balance, vata produces fear and anxiety. Once these factors are understood, one can take Pitta expresses as the body’s metabolic system
appropriate actions to nullify or minimize their effects or made up of Fire and Water. It governs digestion, eliminate the causes of imbalance and re-establish one’s absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism and body original constitution. Balance is the natural order; temperature. In balance, pitta promotes understanding and imbalance is disorder. Health is order; disease is disorder. intelligence. Out of balance, pitta arouses anger, hatred Within the body there is a constant interaction between order and disorder. When one understands the nature and structure of disorder, one can re-establish order. Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure
— bones, muscles, tendons — and provides the “glue” Balancing the Three Principle Energies of the that holds the cells together, formed from Earth and Water. Kapha supplies the water for all bodily parts and Ayurveda identifies three basic types of energy or systems. It lubricates joints, moisturizes the skin, and functional principles that are present in everyone and maintains immunity. In balance, kapha is expressed as everything. Since there are no single words in English that love, calmness and forgiveness. Out of balance, it leads to convey these concepts, we use the original Sanskrit words 1996, 2003 All Rights Reserved. Copyright by The Ayurvedic Institute and Dr. Vasant Lad. For permission or more information, contact: The
Ayurvedic Institute, PO Box 23445, Albuquerque, NM 87192-1445; 505.291.9698; www.ayurveda.com
Life presents us with many challenges and imbalance. Recommendations may include the opportunities. Although there is much over which we implementation of lifestyle changes; starting and have little control, we do have the power to decide about maintaining a suggested diet; and the use of herbs. In some things, such as diet and lifestyle. To maintain some cases, participating in a cleansing program, called balance and health, it is important to pay attention to these panchakarma, is suggested to help the body rid itself of decisions. Diet and lifestyle appropriate to one’s accumulated toxins to gain more benefit from the various individual constitution strengthen the body, mind and In summary, Ayurveda addresses all aspects of life— the body, mind and spirit. It recognizes that each of us is unique, each responds differently to the many aspects of The basic difference between Ayurveda and Western life, each possesses different strengths and weaknesses. allopathic medicine is important to understand. Western Through insight, understanding and experience Ayurveda allopathic medicine currently tends to focus on presents a vast wealth of information on the relationships symptomatology and disease, and primarily uses drugs between causes and their effects, both immediate and and surgery to rid the body of pathogens or diseased tissue. Many lives have been saved by this approach. In fact, surgery is encompassed by Ayurveda. However, VATA: The Energy of Movement
drugs, because of their toxicity, often weaken the body. Ayurveda does not focus on disease. Rather, Ayurveda Vata provides the essential motion for all bodily maintains that all life must be supported by energy in processes and is extremely vital for health. On an annual balance. When there is minimal stress and the flow of basis, vata is most prominent in the fall and at the change energy within a person is balanced, the body’s natural of seasons, and these are the most important times to be defense systems will be strong and can more easily careful of diet and lifestyle. One purpose of lifestyle considerations is stabilize this motion. Routine is very It must be emphasized that Ayurveda is not a useful in assisting the vata individual to effectively substitute for Western allopathic medicine. There are many instances when the disease process and acute conditions can best be treated with drugs or surgery. Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with Western medicine to make a person stronger and less likely to be afflicted with disease and/or to rebuild the body after We all have times when we don’t feel well and and very active, vata people walk, talk and think fast, but recognize that we’re out of balance. Sometimes we go to are easily fatigued. They tend to have less willpower, the doctor only to be told there is nothing wrong. What is confidence, boldness and tolerance for fluctuation than actually occurring is that this imbalance has not yet other types and often feel unstable and ungrounded. When become recognizable as a disease. Yet it is serious enough unbalanced, vata types may become fearful, nervous and to make us notice our discomfort. We may start to wonder anxious. In the external world, vata types tend to earn whether it is just our imagination. We may also begin to money quickly and spend it quickly. They are not good consider alternative measures and actively seek to create planners and as a consequence may suffer economic balance in our body, mind and consciousness. Evaluation and Treatment of Imbalances Vata types have variable appetite and digestion. They Ayurveda encompasses various techniques for are often attracted to astringent foods like salad and raw assessing health. The practitioner carefully evaluates key vegetables, but their constitution is balanced by warm, signs and symptoms of illness, especially in relation to the cooked foods and sweet, sour and salty tastes. With a origin and cause of an imbalance. They also consider the tendency to produce little urine, their feces are often hard, patient’s suitability for various treatments. The practitioner arrives at diagnosis through direct Vata resides in the colon, as well as the brain, ears, questioning, observation and a physical exam, as well as bones, joints, skin and thighs. Vata people are more inference. Basic techniques such taking the pulse, susceptible to diseases involving the air principle, such as observing the tongue, eyes and physical form; and emphysema, pneumonia and arthritis. Other common vata listening to the tone of the voice are employed during an disorders include flatulence, tics, twitches, aching joints, dry skin and hair, nerve disorders, constipation, and Palliative and cleansing measures, when appropriate, mental confusion. Vata in the body tends to increase with can be used to help eliminate an imbalance along with age as is exhibited by the drying and wrinkling of the suggestions for eliminating or managing the causes of the 1996, 2003 All Rights Reserved. Copyright by The Ayurvedic Institute and Dr. Vasant Lad. For permission or more information, contact: The
Ayurvedic Institute, PO Box 23445, Albuquerque, NM 87192-1445; 505.291.9698; www.ayurveda.com
Since the attributes of vata are dry, light, cold, rough, can be intoxicating to vata, so one should seek relaxation subtle, mobile and clear, any of these qualities in excess can cause imbalance. Frequent travel, especially by plane, loud noises, continual stimulation, drugs, sugar and alcohol all derange vata, as does exposure to cold and cold liquids and foods. Like the wind, vata types have a hard time becoming and staying grounded. Routine is difficult but essential if vata is to be lowered and controlled. It is best for vata types to go to bed by 10 PM as they need more rest than the other types. In general, people with excessive vata respond most rapidly to warm, moist, slightly oily, heavy foods. Steam baths, humidifiers and moisture in general are helpful. Daily oil massage PITTA: The Energy of Digestion and
before bath or shower is also recommended. Metabolism
General food guidelines for decreasing vata include Pitta types have many of the qualities of fire. Fire is warm, well-cooked, unctuous foods. One should have hot, penetrating, sharp and agitating. Similarly, pitta small meals three or four times a day and may snack as people have warm bodies, penetrating ideas and sharp needed while maintaining a two hour gap between each intelligence. When out of balance, they can become very meal. Regularity in meal times is important for vata. agitated and short-tempered. The pitta body type is one of Those with vata-dominant constitutions do well with one- medium height and build, with ruddy or coppery skin. pot meals such as soups, stews and casseroles. They can They may have many moles and freckles. Their skin is use more oil in cooking their foods than the other two warm and less wrinkled than vata skin. Their hair tends to doshas and experience better digestion if they limit their be silky and they often experience premature graying or hair loss. Their eyes are of medium size and the conjunctiva is moist. The nose is sharp and the tip tends to Well-cooked oats and rice are good for vata because they are not too drying when cooked with plenty of water and butter or ghee. While cooked vegetables are best for vata, the occasional salad with a good oily or creamy dressing is all right. Nightshades—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers—as well as spinach should be avoided if the vata person has stiff, aching joints or muscles. Sweet, ripe and juicy fruits are good for vata. The astringent and drying fruits, such as cranberries, pomegranates and raw apples, should be avoided. Fruit sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. Pitta people’s sleep is should always be eaten by itself on an empty stomach. sound and of medium duration. They produce large quantities of urine and feces, which tend to be yellowish, Many vata people can satisfy their need for protein soft and plentiful. They perspire easily and their hands by judicious use of dairy products, but can also use eggs, and feet stay warm. Pitta people have a lower tolerance chicken, turkey, fresh fish and venison if they wish. for sunlight, heat and hard physical work. Legumes are difficult to digest and should be consumed in limited quantity by those trying to pacify vata. The Mentally, pitta types are alert and intelligent and legumes should be the split type and soaked before have good powers of comprehension. However, they are cooking. Cooking them with a little oil and spices, such as easily agitated and aggressive and tend toward hate, anger turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic and hing and jealousy when imbalanced. In the external world, (asafoetida), will help prevent vata from being disturbed. pitta people like to be leaders and planners and seek material prosperity. They like to exhibit their wealth and All nuts and seeds are good for vata, but are best possessions. Pitta people tend to have diseases involving used as butters or milks. Ten almonds, soaked in water the fire principle such as fevers, inflammatory diseases overnight with skins removed the next morning, are a and jaundice. Common symptoms include skin rashes, satisfying early morning food. Sesame oil is warming for burning sensation, ulceration, fever, inflammations or vata, but all oils are good. All dairy products are good for irritations such as conjunctivitis, colitis or sore throats. vata with hard cheese being eaten sparingly. All spices are good, but should not be overused. Vatas can have half Since the attributes of pitta are oily, hot, light, a glass of wine, diluted with water, during or after a meal. mobile, dispersing and liquid, an excess of any of these Since vata people tend to be prone to addiction, they qualities aggravates pitta. Summer is a time of heat, the should avoid sugar, caffeine and tobacco. Intensity itself pitta season. Sunburn, poison ivy, prickly heat and short tempers are common. These kinds of pitta disorders tend 1996, 2003 All Rights Reserved. Copyright by The Ayurvedic Institute and Dr. Vasant Lad. For permission or more information, contact: The
Ayurvedic Institute, PO Box 23445, Albuquerque, NM 87192-1445; 505.291.9698; www.ayurveda.com
to calm down as the weather gets cooler. The diet and lifestyle changes emphasize coolness—cool foods, avoidance of chilies and spices (especially difficult for New Mexicans), and cool climates. People with excessive pitta need to exercise at the coolest part of the day. General food guidelines for pacifying pitta include Exercise during the cooler part of the day avoiding sour, salty and pungent foods. Vegetarianism is best for pitta people and they should refrain from eating APHA: The Energy of Lubrication
meat, eggs, alcohol and salt. To help calm their natural aggressiveness and compulsiveness, it is beneficial to Kapha types are blessed with strength, endurance and incorporate sweet, cooling and bitter foods and tastes into stamina. In balance, they tend to have sweet, loving dispositions and be stable and grounded. Their skin is oily Barley, rice, oats and wheat are good grains for pitta and smooth. Physically, kapha people may gain weight dominant individuals and vegetables should form a easily and have a slow metabolism. They tend to shun substantial part of their diet. Tomatoes, radishes, chilies, exercise. They have thick skin and their bodies and garlic and raw onions should all be avoided. In fact, any muscles are well developed. Their eyes are large and vegetable that is too sour or hot will aggravate pitta, but attractive with thick, long lashes and brows. Kapha most other vegetables will help to calm it. Daikon people evacuate slowly and feces tend to be soft, pale and radishes are cleansing for the liver when pitta is in oily. Perspiration is moderate. Sleep is deep and balance but should be avoided otherwise. Salads and raw prolonged. Kapha types are attracted to sweet, salty and vegetables are good for pitta types in the spring and oily foods, but their constitutions are most balanced by summer as are any sweet fruits. Sour fruits should be avoided with the exception of limes, used sparingly. Animal foods, especially seafood and eggs, should only be taken in moderation by pitta types. Chicken, turkey, rabbit and venison are all right. All legumes except red and yellow lentils are good in small amounts, with black lentils, chickpeas and mung beans being the balance, kaphas tend to experience greed, envy, attachment and possessiveness. In the Most nuts and seeds have too much oil and are external world, kapha tendencies toward groundedness, heating for pitta. However, coconut is cooling and stability and attachment help them to earn and hold onto sunflower and pumpkin seeds are all right occasionally. Small amounts of coconut, olive and sunflower oils are also good for pitta. They are more likely to have diseases connected to the water principle such as flu, sinus congestion, and Sweet dairy products are good and include milk, other diseases involving mucous. Sluggishness, excess unsalted butter, ghee and soft, unsalted cheeses. Yogurt weight, diabetes, water retention, and headaches are also can be used if it is blended with spices, a little sweetener common. Kapha can become more aggravated as the and water. In fact, pitta people can use a sweetener better moon gets full because there is a tendency for water than the other two doshas because it relieves pitta. retention at that time. Winter is the time of greatest kapha However, they should avoid hot spices, using cardamom, accumulation and following the kapha-balancing dietary cinnamon, coriander, fennel and turmeric predominantly, and lifestyle changes are most important during that with small amounts of cumin and black pepper. Coffee, alcohol and tobacco should be completely avoided although the occasional beer may be relaxing for Dietary guidelines for kapha people stress bitter, a pitta person. Black tea may also be used occasionally astringent and pungent tastes. They actually need foods with a little milk and a pinch of cardamom. that will invigorate their minds while limiting their overall consumption of food. They should avoid dairy products and fats of any kind, especially fried or greasy foods. and bodies Those with kapha dominant constitutions need less grain than pitta or vata constitutions with buckwheat and millet (more heating) being optimal grains for them followed by barley, rice and corn. Roasted or dry cooked grains are best. All vegetables are good for kapha but one 1996, 2003 All Rights Reserved. Copyright by The Ayurvedic Institute and Dr. Vasant Lad. For permission or more information, contact: The
Ayurvedic Institute, PO Box 23445, Albuquerque, NM 87192-1445; 505.291.9698; www.ayurveda.com
should emphasize leafy greens and vegetables grown recommend Usha Lad and Dr. Lad’s cookbook, Ayurvedic above ground more than root vegetables while avoiding very sweet, sour or juicy vegetables. Generally kapha people can eat raw vegetables although steamed or stir- Bibliography
fried are easier to digest. Very sweet or sour fruits should be avoided with the more astringent and drying fruits Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. being preferable such as apples, apricots, cranberries, Usha Lad & Dr. Vasant Lad. Ayurvedic Cooking for Only rarely do kapha people need animal foods and, Self-Healing. 2d ed. The Ayurvedic Press: when they do, it should be dry cooked—baked, roasted, broiled—never fried. They could eat chicken, eggs, Morrison, Judith H. The Book of Ayurveda: A Holistic rabbit, seafood and venison. As their bodies do not Approach to Health and Longevity. New require large amounts of protein, they also should not overeat legumes although these are better for them than York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1995, A meat because of the lack of fat. Black beans, mung beans, pinto beans and red lentils are best for kapha types. Svoboda, Robert E. The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda. Pune, India, 1980; reprint, The Ayurvedic The heavy qualities of nuts and seeds aggravate kapha as does the oil in them. Occasional sunflower and pumpkin seeds are all right. Almond, corn, safflower or Svoboda, Robert E. Prakruti: Your Ayurvedic sunflower oils can be used in small amounts as well. The Constitution. Geocom Limited: Albuquerque, same holds true for dairy products: in general, kapha people should avoid the heavy, cooling, sweet qualities of Svoboda, Robert E. Ayurveda: Life, Health and dairy. A little ghee for cooking and some consumption of Longevity. Penguin: London, 1992. goat’s milk is good for kapha types. Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Since kapha people should avoid sweets, the only Remedies. Harmony Books: New York, 1998. sweetener they should use is raw honey, which is heating. Lad, Vasant. Secrets of the Pulse: The Ancient Art of However, they can use all spices, except salt, with ginger Ayurvedic Pulse Diagnosis. The Ayurvedic and garlic being best for them. A person whose dominant dosha is kapha and who has very little influence from the other two doshas can benefit from the occasional use of Frawley, David, and Vasant Lad. The Yoga of Herbs. stimulants such as coffee and tea. They are also not as harmed by tobacco and hard liquor. However, they really do not need alcohol at all. If they elect to use alcohol, General guidelines for balancing kapha: The above books are recommended in an order of the simplest to the most complex, that is, from those containing basic Ayurvedic knowledge to those with Avoid dairy Avoid iced food or drinks Vary your routine Avoid fatty, oily foods Eat light, dry food No daytime naps Remember that your progress toward balance and health is proportional to how well you stick to the guidelines of diet and lifestyle. Old habits sometimes die hard and your changes may be very gradual but, to achieve progress, the changes need to be made. You are in charge of your own rate of change. If you wish to learn more about Ayurveda, we highly recommend Dr. Lad’s Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing for a conceptual understanding of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. For guidelines and explanations about the Ayurvedic approach to food and healing, we also 1996, 2003 All Rights Reserved. Copyright by The Ayurvedic Institute and Dr. Vasant Lad. For permission or more information, contact: The
Ayurvedic Institute, PO Box 23445, Albuquerque, NM 87192-1445; 505.291.9698; www.ayurveda.com

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